This past week I was doing my normal sermon preparation for Sunday. That trail took me to 2 Kings Chapter 4. I picked up a commentary on 2 Kings only to find that the author said that the entire book of 2 Kings doesn’t pass the test of critical examination, and therefore, should be read as such. The stories that are in 2 Kings are anecdotal and full of Black Magic and are the stuff of legend. I looked at the cover to see who the author was and found that he was a seminary professor. I asked myself, “Why would someone devote their life to teach a book they didn’t believe was true?” Here is my take on that question. This author has only known a god of natural, human dimensions. The Almighty God of Elisha in 2 Kings is a supernatural God—who is completely unknown to this liberal theologian.[i] While I am at it, let me give you a different expert opinion on the Old Testament by someone else, The Apostle Paul:
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!”
(1 Cor 10:11-12).
This story from 2 Kings is about facing crisis. It begs us to answer one essential question, “Will I trust God with each crisis or not?” The answer to that question is paramount to the success of our Christian experience. It is a tough thing to trust God. It’s not natural. Most of us are inclined to trust our own instincts and be guided by our own experience, which is usually not godly experience. To trust God we often have to suspend logic and certainly our desire for comfort. Well here is the story:
2 Kings 4:1-7 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, "Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves."
2 Elisha replied to her, "How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?"
"Your servant has nothing there at all," she said, "except a little oil."
3 Elisha said, "Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. 4 Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side."
5 She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. 6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, "Bring me another one." But he replied, "There is not a jar left." Then the oil stopped flowing.
7 She went and told the man of God, and he said, "Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left."
Most of us minimize our gifts, and that is what this lady did. Although this may be truthful in a pragmatic sense, it is based on what she sees and not on what God has done for her. There was something about the crisis that caused her to minimize her gifts. God’s gifts are not measured by big and little, great or small. God used one small stone in David’s hand to bring Goliath down and one small boy’s lunch to feed five thousand. “I have nothing except a little oil” is so descriptive of our mentality. God’s solution not only supplied the need, but was also meant to teach the woman to not despise what she had.
God wanted this lady and her sons to expand their faith. They would need more empty jars than they possessed. She was told to get as many as she could find. “Don’t ask for just a few,” the prophet said. When she had collected all the jars, she was to start pouring and was not to stop until every jar was filled. Once she had filled all the jars, the oil stopped pouring. This is the part that belongs to God. It is the miraculous. It is the supernatural. It is the part where having done our part, then God does the rest. I offer conjecture that the reason the liberal commentator says that what happened behind closed doors was Black Magic was because he has never had a supernatural encounter with God. Until you meet God and He literally saves and changes you in a supernatural way, you cannot believe this part of the story. But, for those who have met God, you know God can do this.
I can see the excitement of the lady and the boys as she kept pouring from one vessel to the next. How was it possible that the oil kept flowing out? They knew it was God. She asked for another jar, and the boys said, “That’s it mom.” She could have filled a hundred more or a thousand more because the oil had a limitless supply. The oil paid her debts and supplied her living. As Abraham so long ago learned, “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen 18:14).